Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.
As a clinical psychologist deeply interested in lying and self-deception, the most common questions I get from readers are about romantic relationships. Questions like: How can I trust that my partner is being honest? Why am I attracted to people who aren’t healthy for me? How does lying and self-deception affect our relationships?
Romantic relationships offer you one of the greatest opportunities to understand yourself. Like a great therapist, a romantic partner can serve as a mirror, reflecting back a part of you. Simultaneously, relationships bring to light our biggest insecurities and vulnerabilities. This makes our romantic relationships especially ripe for deception.
In fact, romantic relationships are breeding-grounds for lying and self-deception. An ongoing online study called the Lies Lovers Tell Survey asks men and women about lying tendencies in romantic relationships. Results from over 16,000 people to date suggest that people lie to their partners a lot. In fact, over half of the sample endorsed lying to their current flame about some topics! Specifically, women most frequently lied about snooping on their partner (endorsed by 57% of women), feeling insecure about the relationship (endorsed by about half of the sample), having feelings for someone else (endorsed by 40% of the sample), and sexual satisfaction with her partner (endorsed by about 39%). For men, the most common lies were snooping on his partner and feeling insecure about the relationship (endorsed by half of the sample, respectively); and using pornography, admitting his sexual fantasies, and accurately describing the frequency of masturbation (each endorsed by about 48% of the sample).
Given that most people claim to want to be in relationships that are based on honesty and trust, why do we lie so much to our romantic partners?
The short answer is this: First, we lie to our partners about truths that we do not want to admit. Then, we lie to ourselves to justify why we lied to our partner.
For example, let’s say you are in contact with an ex that you can’t seem to get over. You wish your feelings were gone, but the truth is that you still get butterflies anytime you hear his or her name. You want to communicate with your ex, but you know your current flame would not approve. Especially if he or she knew you were emotionally connected and sexually fantasizing about your ex! So, you decide to lie—you tell your current partner that you are not in touch with your ex. Then, you try to make yourself feel better about your lying by rationalizing. You may tell yourself that it’s best to lie because you don’t want to hurt your current partners’ feelings. And you don’t want to fight about it. Plus, your feelings for your ex have nothing to do with your current relationship. And, although you feel guilty, you wish you felt differently and are trying to change. For all of these reasons, you tell yourself that it is better to lie.
So, this leads me to ask, “How honest are you in your romantic relationships? What do you tell your lover honestly and what do you lie about? How do you think your lying affects your relationship?“
The Naked Truth is this: Lying and self-deception is rampant in romantic relationships. Common lies include everything from I am not in touch with my ex (when you are!) to I am just as attracted to you as I was the day we met (which is rarely true) to my sexual fantasies are all about you… and I don’t masturbate or watch porn very often (…define “very often”). At the end of the day, we lie to our partners about almost anything we don’t want to admit. Then we justify those lies by lying to ourselves about why it is okay to lie.
Take a moment and complete the Lies Lovers Tell Survey. Once you have identified some of the ways that you lie to yourself and your partner (currently or in past relationships), you are now at a crossroads. What are you going to do with this information? Are you going to keep lying or are you going to have a more honest relationship?
Dr. Cortney Warren is a contributing expert to EXaholics.com